Real Life

My donkey is a bodyguard!

I found an unlikely guardian for my sheep

I'm so grateful I have my sweet Honey. (Image: Supplied)

Dianne Parnell, 73, shares her sweet story with Take 5…

I’d just stepped inside after a long day at work when the phone rang.

When did you last check the sheep?” my son Graham asked, concerned.

It was 2021 and he was living in another house on the property overlooking the back paddock where my 60-odd sheep were grazing.

“Yesterday,” I replied.

“You’d better come look,” he urged. “There’s bodies everywhere!”

Dashing up there, I was horrified to find 25 sheep, including young lambs, lying dead.

It was clear from the wounds that they’d been attacked by wild dogs from the bush.

“They haven’t eaten them,” I observed in disbelief. “Just killed them for sport.”

The poor other sheep were clearly shaken from the bloodbath.

Our farm had been in the family since 1850, and in the 40 years I’d lived there, we’d never had wild dogs attack.

Next day, Graeme, along with my other son, John, dug a large grave for the sheep.

As those 25 would have had a market value of around $15,000, it was a painful loss.

We moved the remaining flock further from the bushland and began investigating ways to protect them.

First, we tried alpacas, but the feral dogs killed them.

“Apparently donkeys can defend sheep,” John told me after searching online.

Me and sweet Honey. (Image: Supplied)

So in early 2022, I visited the Last Stop Donkey Program in Singleton, NSW.

I was met by the manager, Brooke, who’d mustered 50 wild donkeys from Queensland and the NT with her husband, Heath.

“Donkeys are a pest up north,” she explained, “so we brought them to the Hunter Valley to help with the dog problem.”

When I questioned their usefulness as bodyguards, she told a surprising story.

“A pig got into the enclosure recently,” she said, “and one of the donkeys kicked it to death in defence.”

I knew I’d found my sheep protector!

My new donkey, Honey, was fresh from the Territory and yet to be tamed.

She kicked me a few times when I first brought her to the farm, but soon relaxed to my presence.

The sheep, however, bonded with her instantly, as if she were one of their own.

A few weeks after her arrival, a fox ran onto the property.

I was delighted to see that Honey had herded the sheep together and was keeping them safe!

“Good girl, Honey,” I encouraged.

The sheep bonded with her right away. (Image: Supplied)

Months went by without any more dog attacks.

Later that year, I was eating breakfast on my porch when I spotted something large drop out of Honey.

What’s that? I wondered, trekking over.

The sheep had also gathered round to inspect.

There on the grass was a foal!

Honey stood the baby up on its legs with her mouth and off he trotted.

She didn’t even look pregnant, I marvelled.

Since the arrival of the foal named Storm, Honey has become very protective of him, too.

Hopefully, he will grow up to become just as sweet as her.

Honey’s a very special donkey and has made our farm a much safer place with her presence.

I couldn’t believe it when Storm arrived. (Image: Supplied)

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